Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joe CorbettJoe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at [email protected].


An Integral Scam

from Steve McIntosh and the
Institute for Cultural Evolution?

Joe Corbett

The issue of working class people rejecting liberal elites is not simply or even primarily a values issue, it is a class issue.

The mission of Steve McIntosh and the Institute for Cultural Evolution is “to foster political evolution in America by focusing on hyper-partisan polarization”. They see hyper-polarization as “a cultural problem that requires a cultural solution”, the solution of becoming a “post-progressive” society. In so doing they claim to address the “conflicting values underlying our poisoned politics”, and they want Americans to “achieve consensus”, or “bring peace to the culture wars”, by reviving “our collective sense of common cause and thereby restore the functionality of our democracy”.[1]

Framing the issue of polarization in America and around the world this way, trying to reduce global divisions to cultural polarization without addressing the underlying class polarization, is classic petty-bourgeois idealism, and it reveals the new age boomerism implicit in such an approach. It's like trying to cure a disease by treating the symptom. And why do it that way? Because, in a typical boomer framing of issues, it can be monetized with cultural training programs brought to you by the Institute of Cultural Evolution, and trap your employees and clientele in a cycle of co-dependency and consumption without actually solving the underlying condition, just like the pharma-medical model. It's one more way to keep capitalism floating another round or two before implosion, another Mc-mindfulness scam[2] or HR multicultural sensitivity training scam, to keep the wheels of material destruction, class exploitation and dysfunctional inequality turning round and round. Meanwhile, time is running out for the climate crisis and the rigged system of social inequality.

Steve McIntosh
Steve McIntosh

The issue of working class people rejecting liberal elites is not simply or even primarily a values issue, it is a class issue. The working classes of the heartlands of Europe and America reject the technocratic neoliberal policies that have decimated mostly the suburbs and small towns in favor of the financial centers of the cities, where the professional managerial class of neoliberals live. The liberal elites chalk this populist rebellion up to "racism" and stupidity because they (liberal elites) cant look at themselves and how their policies are designed to benefit them instead of the working classes. The solution to this is certainly not to become "post-progressive", but even more progressive with class solutions rather than cultural identity solutions that don't address the class issues, and only end up pissing the working class off even more in the double betrayal that liberal elites perpetuate on them: first by ignoring the needs of working people, and then gaslighting them as racists. There is no "post-progressive" solution to this, only a real-progressive solution.

The first re-direction of the Institutes goals should begin with knowing the difference between woke and progressive. Truthfully, many in the integral community do not know this difference either, including Steve McIntosh. The conflation of woke (MGM[3]) with progressive (and therefore the necessity of becoming “post-progressive”) is precisely what the talking heads on Fox-news do, and they do so as a more general way of discrediting the left. But not to be outdone, MSNBC and CNN accuse Bernie Sanders of not getting anything done despite the fact that he is almost single handedly responsible for the populist progressive upsurge in the corporate Democratic party, and that he is polarizing, as if an economic populist was polarizing to anyone but the elites. Who, exactly, is “polarized” by the ideas of universal health care and a living wage? Therefore Steve and the Institute need to stop making MSM talking points about Sanders and progressives in their underlying assumptions about the political landscape of America that conflates progressives with those who are “woke”. The failure to distinguish between woke and progressive, and then again between the corporate Democratic party and the progressive faction within it, is a failure to see what is really going on, and therefore what needs to be done. Saying you have a post-progressive politics does not begin until these kinds of distinctions have been made, and once one does it becomes clear that the goal shouldn't be to become “post-progressive” but post-corporate neoliberal and post-cultural identity politics, even as the happy marriage between them in HR departments would suggest.

My basic argument here is that attempting to "fix" the MGM without addressing the mean orange meme (MOM) is putting the horse before the cart. It's futile and foolish, or to use one of Steve's favorite words when he's talking down to his adversaries, it's “immature” (deplorable?). What good is a neutered MGM with a still raging MOM? None, unless you are a member of the MOM class, of course. How then do we reduce cultural polarization if not by monetized cultural-values training scams? Better regulation of MSM truth-claims that send us down imaginary rabbit holes and social media algorithms that addict us to tribal memberships might be a good start. But giving people more meaningful lives than the little opportunity they have in the lop-sided and rigged economy we now live in would need to be the longer term goal. And that would actually mean MORE polarization, not less, but polarization based in the class war that is already being waged by elites against the working classes. American and global polarization? Hell yes, BRING IT ON!!

So when Steve McIntosh and the Institute for Cultural Evolution say things like, “Let us renew our nation's political life through a new era of cooperation and kindness”, I can only think they might mean a return to the Washington Consensus, and to the technocratic neoliberal solutions from professional managerial elites to falling rates of profit, that pissed off the working classes and got us to Trump in the first place. When does that era of mutual understanding and love begin, guys and gals, queers and pervs and “others”? Before, or after the neoliberal policies that have decimated the American Dream and enriched the elites have been wiped clean through the crucible of class war?

This fatal mistake in the project for cultural evolution might have been avoided had Ken Wilber not failed to articulate the LR by giving it a proper name, and therefore giving it the proper attention it deserves in integral theory and practice as a separate consideration irreducible to any of the other domains. I have given it the name of Justice for reasons that I have discussed elsewhere. But without a name for the social relations of class and the interobjective clashes and dialectics between the different parts of the system in the LR, we will be running short of a genuinely integral vision of the reality we are dealing with.


[1] All quotes from,

[2] Mindfulness meditation in the workplace/schools has mainly been used for pacification and the obedience of workers/students who need to be controlled and directed by others, as Ron Purser has written about.

[3] Postmodernism, upon which the MGM is founded, is about the loss of the modern grand narrative of progress through western enlightenment, seeing through the class and cultural privilege of that narrative, and constructing meaning of ones own and ways of life based on particular group identities rather than the supposed universal identity of the white male or rational autonomous ego. This is a narrative that obviously needs to be included in any transcendence of the modern era, but it needs to be grounded in a new kind of inclusive and common if not universal identity to avoid the divisive neo-tribal fragmentation of the postmodern dilemma.

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